Tickets to the Dance
In 2012-13, there were 347 men's teams and 345 women's teams in Division I college basketball, and each one begins every basketball season with one dream -- winning the national championship. But before these teams can win the tourney, they must make the field of teams that are invited to the tournament. Sixty-eight men's teams and 64 women's teams are granted invitations.
A selection committee that comprises different university athletic directors and conference commissioners chooses teams for both the men's and women's tournaments. Each tournament has its own committee. The selection committee meets between the Thursday and Sunday before the date picked for the tournament's first game. Its job is to figure out the teams deserving of an invitation. The decisions are announced on television during Selection Sunday.
Thirty-one teams receive an automatic invite to the tournament, which is their reward for winning their respective conferences. Thirty of these teams win their tournament through conference tournaments. The remaining invites, 37 for men and 33 for women, are left in the hands of the selection committee. Of the teams left in the pool, certain teams are assured a spot in the tournament, others don't make the cut, and then there's a third group, called "bubble" teams, that could go either way.